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Kewpie Dolls

Kewpie dolls were based on the Kewpie illustrations by Rose O'Neill. Already the highest-paid female illustrator in the United States, Rose came up with the Kewpie during a low point in her life, when she envisioned little angelic characters that, instead of getting a person into trouble like Cupid, would get a person out of trouble instead. The first Kewpie illustrations appeared in "Ladies Home Journal" in 1909 and were extremely popular.

The Kewpie illustrations led to a series of Kewpie paper dolls and a Kewpie comic strip. Children flooded O'Neill with requests for a Kewpie doll. In 1911, O'Neill partnered with a young art student named Joseph Kallus to sculpt the first Kewpie doll mold. O'Neill then traveled to Germany and contracted with the Kestner Doll company to manufacture the first Kewpie dolls in bisque and celluloid. These dolls were made with solid upright bodies. The arms were jointed at the shoulders with straight elbows and open hands.

Kewpie dolls were among the most popular dolls in America until the '30s when their popularity declined. Rose O'Neill passed away in 1944 and merchandising rights for Kewpie reverted to Joseph Kallus, who produced the dolls through his own doll factory, the Cameo Doll Company. After Kallus retired from doll making, the rights to Kewpie were acquired by Strombecker, Milton-Bradley, and Jesco.


Quick Facts

  • Kewpies have been made both with and without wings. Over the decades, Kewpies have been made out of bisque, ceramic, celluloid, hard plastic, and soft vinyl
  • Kewpie merchandising has resulted in many other Kewpie items including doll patterns, dishes, statues, and postcards, to name a few. Also, a Japanese company manufactures food items using the Kewpie name
  • Other doll companies that have produced versions of Kewpie include Amsco, Effanbee, Knickerbocker, and Lefton, among others

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